Wednesday, May 25, 2011

God is a Parasite

Last weekend, I spent the non-rapture enjoying interesting and stimulating conversation with people of like mind. I certainly wish that concentrated dialogue was available more often, but also, that it would present itself during my day-to-day interactions, as well.

After listening to the lecture given by Dr. Darrel Ray, author of The God Virus, a thought crossed my mind about the organism he had discussed, the parasite Toxoplasm Gondii. It's the parasite that uses the cat as its host and the one we usually don't hear about until a woman gets pregnant. She is generally issued the standard warning to make sure she doesn't clean the cat's litter box, should she happen to own a member of the feline species. Personally, I didn't know about it until I read every woman's must read book "What to Expect When You're Expecting" when I found out I was entering in to the world of motherhood.

The lecture centered on how the virus of religion gets spread around and continues to be spread through various means. In this talk, Dr. Ray speaks about the discovery that mice infected with the parasite actually lost their ability to fear cats. Logically, with the mice being infected, the cats would have a much easier time enjoying the delicacy they usually have to put forth some effort in catching. Once the infected mouse is eaten, the cat becomes infected with the parasite, then the cat's feces, containing the parasite get deposited in the litter box until the person who cleans said litter box comes in direct contact with the parasite and possibly becomes infected with it. The human who contracts the parasite generally will not exhibit symptoms beyond what feels like a bad cold or the flu. But, interestingly, Dr. Ray also said that humans who become infected have been shown to be more neurotic. Upon further independent research after the conference, I found that there is also a link to the increased possibility of schizophrenia when infected with this parasite. Fascinating stuff!

As I was listening to Dr. Ray's lecture, my next logical thought was 'religious people are neurotic', so does that mean they are infected with Toxoplasma Gondii parasite? Not that much of a leap, really, if you think about it. I was so excited at the prospect that this could be a testable idea that I asked Dr. Ray immediately after he finished giving his talk, if that theory had ever been tested? Had there ever been any research done along these lines? He said no, but it would make for a hell of a medical dissertation! Brilliant! Useful if I was going for my doctorate, but I'm not. The possibility to test this theory and ultimately, prove it, would be fabulous.This idea will definitely be put in my To Do folder should the opportunity ever arise where I could set it in motion.

But let's fantasize for a moment that the research had been done and it could be shown that a little parasite, along with the ability to make a mouse less afraid of a cat, could also make a human more susceptible to believing there was a god. Knowing that irrational thinking was a medical issue means we could vaccinate against it and logical thinking would make an unprecedented showing in the world! Imagine No Religion... Since the evidence would show this to be true, believers of the world would finally understand they are being controlled by something other than an invisible man in the sky. It means they would have to drop their ideology once and for all. THAT would be an incredible world to live in.

It is an interesting fantasy or maybe a forthcoming reality...we'll see. I'll just put it out there... any medical students want to take a bite out of the fantasy of the believers? Make my day! I'll help in anyway I can.

**UPDATE  Fascinating article about breakthroughs in understanding schizophrenia better. If schizophrenia only currently affects 1% of the population, then the assumption that I made above would be really hard to prove UNLESS the current understanding of schizophrenia is now flawed with this new information. Could schizophrenia be on a broad spectrum like autism where you have mild cases to outright delusional? Well, then we would be back to square one as to god being a parasite and once again, something to prove. Anyone?


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Schizophrenia is on a broad spectrum as you say because it is not a specific diagnosis. And I think the reporting on how much of the population affected is seriously flawed. ""Our study provides further evidence of 'dysconnectivity'" is the only real statement that you can kinda count on, but what that means is simply that you would have to setup the same experiment that they did to get any real meaningful data. Interesting that you theorize that God is a parasitic infestation that could perhaps somehow be vaccinated against in the future.
    I kinda think the same way, but with our conscious mind, it makes us susceptible to mental viri such as fads, legends, and moral storys, and that it is not so much a biological parasite. Simply because if you live with someone for a long time, you naturally pickup their parasites through constant contact. But that would not necessarily affect someone who believed differently. The difference is that your theory would have infected the other party and they would be under a religious control of some sort.

    If I have it totally wrong, I am sorry that I misunderstood what you were writing about.

  3. it's not even a theory, really... more like a hypothesis! :)

    i would love to finally truly understand how we as a species could choose to cling to religion when this option only offers up irrational behavior and thought processes.

    this was the reason for initially supposing that a parasite could be the catalyst for this; external indoctrination naturally supporting that infection and contributing to the continuing cycle of it.

    it's understood that our direct familial and societal influences impact our thought processes and how we live among the rest of the world, but it still would be interesting to see if any biological component could contribute to enhancing or increasing that influence/delusion.

    thank you for your comments! i enjoyed your input. :)